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Iran protests

One reportedly killed as protests over water crisis in Iran continue

Published: Updated:

Protesters took to the streets for a second consecutive night in Iran’s oil-rich southwest to protest water shortages, videos shared on social media showed, with reports of security forces shooting dead at least one protester.

Security forces shot dead Iranian Arab citizen Mostafa Naeemawi in the city of Shadegan (al-Falahiya) in Khuzestan province during Friday night’s unrest, Al Arabiya Farsi reported, citing local sources.

The protests began late on Thursday in several cities in Khuzestan province, including its capital, Ahwaz, according to videos shared online. The region is home to a large ethnic Arab population.

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Several videos shared on social media showed a large crowd chanting in Arabic late on Friday in the city of Susangerd (al-Khafajiya). “The thieves robbed us in the name of religion,” protesters in Susangerd could be heard chanting in Arabic in one video, in reference to Iran’s Shia theocracy.

In another video from Susangerd, a man, speaking in Persian, could be heard challenging Khuzestan’s governor Qassem Soleimani, who earlier on Friday had said videos of the protests were “fake” and that the extent of the protests had been exaggerated.

Videos also showed protesters setting fires to tires to block roads while shots were heard in other videos.

Activists say Iranian Arabs are deprived of decent living standards and civil rights, and face discrimination due to their Arab identity and heritage.

The government sent a delegation on Friday to Ahwaz to tackle the water shortages that have sparked the protests, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

Iran’s Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian warned in May of water shortages in the summer, saying this year was “one of the driest in 50 years.”

The water shortages have also led to power outages which sparked protests in several cities earlier this month. Some of the protests turned political with chants against Iran’s highest authority, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

The protests in Khuzestan come as thousands of workers in Iran’s key energy sector have launched strikes for better wages and working conditions.

Iran’s economy has been hit hard since 2018 when former US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers and reimposed sweeping sanctions on the country. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the country’s economic problems.

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